Saturday, May 24, 2008

Balancing a Child’s safety with the need for free exploration: parenting past and present.

Balancing a child’s safety with the need for free explorations is handled differently today then it was in the past. Why, because each generation has learned from the mistakes of the last generation and technology has changed. Sure we don’t let our kids play in the kitchen when we cook, we put gate up so they cannot get in. Why, because too many kids were burned and we learned to do things differently. We don’t let our kids bike with out a helmet, or at least the helmet is on when we can see them. Why, because we like our kids to not have brain injuries. We keep our kids wired to us by cell phones and some times GPS trackers. Why, don’t we trust our kids? Yes, about as much as our parents trusted us and I am sure if my Mom could have put a GPS on me back then she would have. This gives us some feeling of safety for our kids as kids can be and are picked up off the streets every day.

Does keeping your child out of the kitchen when you cook prevent them from learning hot don’t touch, or this is how you make dinner? No, they can still observe out of harms way and we can do other activities together that teach in a less harmful environment. Does making your child put their helmet on when biking hold them back, no. Is making them call you at specific times on their cell prevent them from exploring the world, no but it lets them know that you care about them. In some ways it even lets them explore more, we can find them or check in with them at any time, it just takes a call and we know what is going on. Or as much as they tell us, there is still trust issues out there.

I am not saying that our parents did not try to keep us safe, just that our perceptions of what needs to be done to keep our kids safe is different. I am sure our children will also have a different view on what is safe and what is not. Parents in the past said, “Don’t put any thing into the electric socket”, we say the same thing but now have little plug caps to put into them to help remove the temptation. Trust me if a kid is determined to stick some thing into the electric outlet they will find a way. But that is why we tell our kids not to and have better fuses to shut off the electricity if they do. We still tell our kids, don’t play by the pool, and don’t go in the pool if we are not with you. However, we now put fences up with motion detectors on the gate and special motion detectors on the pool to give us warning if someone is in the water.

We have better ways of keeping our children safe now; it does not hamper our children’s need for free exploration. We are not keeping our kids from exploring; we are just making sure it is in a safer environment. We don’t leave guns, or matches in places where kids can get to them and tell them don’t play with that, it is not a toy. We lock them up (the guns and matches, not the kids). Our kids can still learn that guns and matches are not a toy with out being put into a situation where they harm themselves or others. I like to think that we have come a long way from the time of having seat belts but not using them to having car seats and buster seats with special belting to keep them safe.

About 10 years ago my friends parents where babysitting their grandson. He had just started to go from crawling to trying to pull himself up. The Grandmother made her husband his tea like usual. She boiled the water, put the bag in and then put it on the end table by the couch. The little boy used that table to pull himself up. The table fell, the hot tea burned him so bad he had to go to the hospital for 3rd degree burn treatment and his chest will be scarred for life. As a result of this I always made sure I used a travel mug with a lid around my kids, that I took my cup with me when I left a room, or made sure it was in a high, secure place. My kids learned my cup was hot and that they were not to touch it. Did I stop putting my cup in a safe place, no, just for my own peace of mind. I learned from the mistakes of others, as I hope my children will learn from my mistakes.

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